A Guinean-born Italian rugby star who received a rotten banana in his club’s Secret Santa says he accepted an apology – but insisted: “Forgiving… doesn’t mean forgetting”.
Cherif Traoré, 28, shared on social media that he had been “hurt” by the “offensive” gesture of an anonymous colleague to his Italian club side, Benetton – while the accessory launched “racist jokes”.
“What hurt me the most was seeing most of my friends there laughing. As if everything was normal,” he added in an Instagram post.
Following the post, the Treviso club, which plays in the United States Rugby Championship, issued a statement condemning racism.
All Benetton players were also called to the training ground on Wednesday afternoon where they apologized to the prop and were addressed by club chairman Amerino Zatta.
Now, in a new message, Traore has said he has accepted the club’s apology.
He said: “Christmas is kindness, Christmas is gratitude, Christmas is forgiveness… I am saying these words in my life this year and I want to put them into practice.
“I am grateful to my club, my team and all those who have shown me their closeness.
“And I want to forgive, which I admit doesn’t mean forgetting something, being passive when it happened.
“But I want to lick my wounds and carry on with my head held high with no weight on my heart.”
In a separate statement after the meeting with Zatta and the players, Traoré wrote that it was “an opportunity to discuss and understand how what one of my teammates did during the Christmas gift exchange is purely the result of idiocy and nothing else”.
“I appreciate and accept his apologies and those of the whole team. I’m happy with the gesture and I’m sure what happened will make the group even stronger.”
Traore first detailed the incident in a previous social media post which was later deleted and later reposted.
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He wrote: “Christmas is approaching and as traditionally in a team it’s Secret Santa time. A friendly and fun time. A time when you can afford to offer anonymous gifts to your friends, even the most stingy and ironic.
“When it was my turn, I found a banana inside my gift. A rotten banana, inside a moisture bag.
“I’m used to, or better, I had to get used to, having to make a good face about a bad game every time I hear racist jokes to try not to hate people close to me. (This) was different though.”
Traore, who emigrated to Italy from West Africa at the age of seven and won 16 Italian caps, added that outside Italy “a gesture like this is severely condemned even in small cases”.
Last night Zatta said he was ‘happy’ Traore had accepted the apology.
“I’m sure it will strengthen the feeling of cohesion within the group and that such a gesture will never happen again in our family,” he said.
The club also issued a new press release, in which it “condemns in the strongest terms any expression of racism and/or form of discrimination”.
In the statement, the club said: “They are not part of our culture and do not represent our identity and values. We have always proven this with deeds, not just words, and we will continue to support this. firmly.”